Syria crisis: Nato approves Patriots for Turkey

 

Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Nato was determined to protect Turkey

Nato has approved the deployment of Patriot anti-missile batteries along Turkey's border with Syria.

The long-expected move emerged from a meeting of Nato foreign ministers in Brussels, and amid growing fears that Syria could use chemical weapons.

Nato's Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the ministers had "unanimously expressed grave concerns" about the use of chemical weapons.

Syria has said it would never use such weapons against its own people.

The meeting of the 28-member Western military alliance's foreign ministers in Brussels follows a request from Turkey to boost its defences along the border.

In a statement, Nato said it had "agreed to augment Turkey's air defence capabilities in order to defend the population and territory of Turkey and to contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along the alliance's border".

Analysis

Nato's deployment of Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries to south-eastern Turkey is essentially a gesture of reassurance to Ankara.

Turkey feels threatened by the growing crisis in Syria. Stray Syrian artillery shells have already come across the border on several occasions. Turkey fears that worse could follow.

Patriot is highly capable against both advanced aircraft and ballistic missiles. But Nato will underline that this is to be seen as a defensive deployment only. Patriot has no capacity to deal with stray shell fire.

While Patriot can reach into Syrian airspace, Nato is at pains to stress that this is in no sense a step towards establishing a no-fly zone over Syria. Nonetheless, Nato may also hope that there will be a deterrent effect that may dissuade Syria from operating its aircraft too close to the Turkish frontier.

Recent intelligence assessments have indicated Damascus is contemplating using ballistic missiles, potentially armed with chemical warheads.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Rasmussen told reporters that the foreign ministers had "unanimously expressed grave concerns" about the reports, saying: "Any such action would be completely unacceptable and a clear breach of international law."

He would not give further details on the deployment, but said it would ensure effective protection of Turkey against any missile attack, whether carrying chemical weapons or not.

Nato officials have previously made clear such a move would be purely defensive.

Rebel gains

The BBC's diplomatic correspondent James Robbins says Nato's move is an expression of solidarity with Turkey, and a signal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad he must not widen the war against his own people beyond Syria's borders.

Syria is believed to hold chemical weapons - including mustard gas and sarin, a highly toxic nerve agent - at dozens of sites around the country.

The CIA has said those weapons "can be delivered by aircraft, ballistic missile and artillery rockets".

Khoder, 7, Salah, 7, and Yousef Khodor, 6, (left to right) collect firewood outside a former sheep shed in northern Lebanon, where they now live.

President Obama has previously warned President Assad he would face "consequences" if he used chemical weapons against his people.

A Nato team has already visited a number of sites in Turkey in preparation for the deployment of Patriot batteries, which could be used to shoot down any Syrian missiles or warplanes that stray over the border.

But analysts say any deployment - possibly supplied by the US, Germany or the Netherlands - could take weeks.

Activists say more than 40,000 people have been killed since the uprising against President Assad began in March 2011. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the country and another 2.5 million are internally displaced.

Syrian opposition fighters have reportedly made dramatic gains recently, and several government mortar shells - aimed at rebel targets close to the border - have landed across its 900-km (560-mile) border with Turkey.

Syria's chemical weapons

  • The CIA believes Syria has had a chemical weapons programme "for years and already has a stockpile of CW agents which can be delivered by aircraft, ballistic missile, and artillery rockets"
  • Syria is believed to possess mustard gas and sarin, a highly toxic nerve agent
  • The CIA also believes that Syria has attempted to develop more toxic and more persistent nerve agents, such as VX gas
  • A report citing Turkish, Arab and Western intelligence agencies put Syria's stockpile at approximately 1,000 tonnes of chemical weapons, stored in 50 towns and cities
  • Syria has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) or ratified the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)

Sources: CSIS, RUSI

Although the head of the Arab League Nabil al-Arabi told AFP on Monday that the Syrian government could fall "any time", it still holds the capital, parts of the second city Aleppo, and other centres.

In other developments:

  • A teacher and at least 28 students were killed when shelling hit their school inside the Wafideen refugee camp outside Damascus on Tuesday - state media said it was a rebel mortar attack but rebels blamed government troops.
  • A journalist working for a state-run newspaper was killed near his home in Damascus, said state media.
  • The UN said on Monday it was pulling "all non-essential international staff" out of Syria, with as many as 25 out of 100 international staff expected to leave this week.
  • The EU has withdrawn its mission altogether - the ambassador and head of delegation Vassilis Bontosoglou left Damascus with his six remaining international staff members on Tuesday morning.
  • Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi is said to have fled the country, amid reports he has been dismissed, ostensibly for making statements out of line with government policy.
 

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  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 250.

    Assad is a threat yes, as his regime is falling apart and he is running out of options, but I'm more worried about the traceability of Syria's chemical weapons and the potential for them to fall under the control of the groups operating in Syria and then be traded around the region.

  • rate this
    +21

    Comment number 249.

    I wish we'd stop getting involved. Both sides are as bad as each other.

    This is a civil war, not a democratic uprising. Whoever wins, Syria will still be ruled by a brutal dictatorship. However we side, by picking a side the future Syrian government will be anti-West.

    Not one member of the Arab Spring will be anything close to a democracy in a few years.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 248.

    NATO warns Syria but lets Israel build on arab land and fire missles at women and children, there seems to be double standerds where israel is concerned.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 247.

    Irene 230 i do believe that everything has a purpose the democratic purpose is to avenge Jimmah Carter's Ayatollah Khomeini Fiasco and as we vacate the region to leave in complete and utter disarray as i am sure there is a think tank that thought all this out and concluded that by the time the ants gather back into the ant pile it'll be like 20 to 30 years down the road and plot another solution

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 246.

    230.Irene
    8 Minutes ago
    Obama who the world thinks is so wonderful, led to the mess in the Middle East and now, he wants to go into Syria. Well, the American people are just as stupid as the rest of the world so whatever happens, It's on you.
    ===
    I think you will find the Middle East crisis was not President Obama's fault
    It started a little bit before his time

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 245.

    Grow up Chris Neville-Smith
    Do you believe everything you read?
    Do you honestly believe we have a justifiable reason for bring down the Syrian government?
    Do you think that we will create a stable secular democracy when we have finished?
    Or have you already hung out your stocking for Santa!

  • Comment number 244.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 243.

    It's clear that some peoples' trigger fingers are getting itchy! I hope no one coerces the UK to get involved in another nasty Middle East war - let's hope the lessons have been learned in Downing St. Whether the lessons have even been heard in Washington, USA, is another matter of course.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 242.

    Does anyone know what the Syrian opposition stands for? I don't. Now they said to be threatening to use WMD's (despite denying it). Sounds like, erm, 2003 all over again.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 241.

    @233vboulderer; i fear it is you that is "misguided and uneducted" do you really believe what the biased BBC who have a track record of telling lies about syrian goverment atrocities,and western goverments who told lies about Iraqi WMD's tell you? Assad is not a good man but he is better for syria and the world than the islamic fascists he is fighting

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 240.

    The Saudis are arming opposition jihadist and salifist groups who are sympathetic to the Wahabi strand of Islam which dominates in Saudi.
    This austere view of Islam fuels Al Q'Aida's philosophy.
    Syria was the cradle of Christianity, most Syrian Christians are now refugees, their villages and churches burnt. Not just byAssad's forces either.
    The Syrians are losing out in this proxy war on Iran.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 239.

    Grief, some people really do have goldfish memories. How do we know Syria has chemical weapons? Because their own foreign ministry said so, last July, the same time they were threatening to use them against outside forces.

    If we don't protect Turkey and chemical weapons do land there, are you proposing we say "We thought he didn't really mean it"?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 238.

    Surely people can see this propaganda for what it is. At least this article briefly gives a response form the Syrian government, something not done on the propaganda piece on BBC TV news last night.

    I thought the BBC was meant to be objective and balanced, not the mouthpiece for Western 'interests'.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 237.

    Now how many playstation generals commenting on here that dont know the full effects of chemical weapons.

    Like it or not if Turkey requests miltary support as a NATO member we have to respond, thats the whole point of the NATO Alliance

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 236.

    Here we go, did we get the intel from the same source as the Iraqi WMD?
    Any chance of some real journalism like finding out why we are helping bring down the Syrian government?
    And why you’re at it maybe you can explain the why Syria is bad and Bahrain, Saudi, Kuwait, ect are good? It’s not like Saudi is a unelected dictatorship, or supplied the majority of 9/11 hijackers!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 235.

    I wonder if the west realise that they are making a rod for their own back. As in Iraq, once the west has brought down the current Syrian government anarchy will persue Al-quaeda and other anti western Islamist groups will take over. Christians, Alawites and other religious minorites which had been protected under the current regime will be persecuted.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 234.

    Here we go again.
    The same WMD lies that we had from Blair.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 233.

    218.Andrew
    Blood thirsty murderers...blame it on the Government along with their fake uploading of youtube clips.

    Are you INSANE? No doubt they are all sat round in their recording studios making false video's with their latest CGI equipment. They are blaming the government because the regime ARE TO BLAME!
    Go back to watching Syrian state TV for your vastly misguided and uneducted version.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 232.

    It's really all just a cruel game of thrones isn't it? The West states that Syrian (Iraqi) use of WMD will be tantamount to preempting a patriot missile attack. Syria (Iraq) confirms it never will use them (or have them). And voila, the recipe is set for another beheaded leader. President Assad, welcome to the real world of superpower politics. Please prepare your head accordingly.

  • Comment number 231.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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